CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A pair of Coastal Bend educators reached new heights Wednesday, trading in classrooms for the back seat of the Blue Angel No. 7 cockpit at Naval Air Station Kingsville.
The teachers, Bishop Elementary’s Tracy Smith and Carroll High School math teacher and tennis coach Ryan Waters, were selected for the ride as part of the Key Influencers program. The program selects people who have positive influences on youth to take a 45-minute ride as a way for the Blue Angels to promote their mission.
As she landed, Smith triumphantly waved her empty air sick bag from the back seat of the Angels’ F/A-18 Hornet. On the ground, third graders cheered and waved as they welcomed their teacher back to base.
“I had my bag ready, thought I would a couple of times, but I didn’t get sick,” Smith said. “I was worried about passing out and throwing up. I only did one. I didn’t pass out ‘til the end, so one out of two.”
But Smith said it was all worth it.
“It’s just something you can’t even ever imagine experiencing that I got to experience,” she said. “It was the best thing ever. It was awesome.”
Waters, who said he gets sick on roller coasters, wasn’t going to turn down a chance to say he took a ride with the Blue Angels.
“I was ecstatic,” he said about learning he was selected. “This is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity to do this.”
As her husband looped and spun high above South Texas, wife Lisa Waters couldn’t help but be proud of the Carroll High School educator.
“He totally deserves this,” she said. “It’s so neat that the military wants to honor teachers and people in the community. I’m really excited for him.”
The rest of the Blue Angels team is expected to arrive Thursday as they prepare for the Wings Over South Texas Air Show. The free family event will feature aerobatic demonstrations, sky divers and a pyrotechnic display on Saturday and Sunday at NAS-Kingsville, with the Blue Angels expected to perform at 3 p.m. both days.